Click to read about the best places to eat on campus, freshman packing tips, and how to keep in touch with friends.

Stage manager helps students find confidence to share their stories

The USF Theatre program hosts “This is My Brave” -a one-night only performance of storytellers sharing their experiences with mental illness. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/AMANDA CLARK

For College of the Arts stage manager Amanda Clark, no production she has been involved with can be compared to the emotionally charged student showcase This is My Brave. 

“It’s like the Super Bowl halftime show, you don’t know what’s going to happen because you’ve never done it before,” she said. “There’s this sort of electric energy in the room, which makes it more fun and more alive.”

This is My Brave is a live event that gives students the opportunity to share their personal stories pertaining to mental health through mediums such as poetry, essays and original music.

Clark graduated from the University of Richmond in 1995 with a degree in both theater and history. After a recommendation from a professor, she packed her things and traveled across the country to become an intern at the Globe Theater in San Diego. 

Before she knew it, a three-month internship turned into a three-year job. Clark continued to work around the country at various theater companies, but made her way to Tampa when her husband found a position at USF. Now as a teacher of stage management, she said she’s learned that finding her weakness has made a way to show her strengths.

“I always tell my students to figure out what they do and don’t do well and then figure out how to compensate for that,” Clark said. 

“There will always be things you don’t do well. I can’t remember anything, I’m a terrible multitasker. I have to be clear with people that there are some things I’m just not going to remember. I also discovered my willingness to step in and help others. Even if it’s not something I know how to do, I just jump in and figure it out as I go.”

Now a veteran stage manager, Clark has been working at USF since 2006. As a national nonprofit organization, This is My Brave uses the arts to help reduce stigmas surrounding mental health. 

The production will return to USF this April after its first showing in 2021. USF is just the second university to bring the show to a college audience. Working with non-actors who are reading about their personal struggles with mental health is something Clark said she admires most about the production.

“The people who are auditioning aren’t actors, they’re telling their story,” Clark said. “Auditions were amazing and raw, and I cried. It’s a different thing to watch people who aren’t actors audition, it’s an act of bravery.” 

College of Mental Health Law & Policy assistant professor Kristin Kosyluk, the show’s producer,  has been collaborating with Clark on This is My Brave over a year before it hit the stage. They were connected by a mutual friend, but Kosyluk says Clark was fully committed from the moment she asked her to join. 


“I can’t overemphasize the amount of energy and heart she has poured into this production,” Kosyluk said. “She’s so fun to work with and has so much empathy for students. You can tell that students are really important to her, and without her knowledge of theater, this production would not be possible.” 

Kosyluk and Clark work long hours in the rehearsal room to make sure performers have their best work in front of them. Because most have little or no experience on stage, Clark said that time is spent getting students adjusted to performance speaking and gaining more confidence in what they are presenting. 

“It’s mostly about the performance aspect,” she said. “Making sure we’re speaking louder and slowing down because that can happen if you’re not used to speaking on stage. We also give prompts, like asking to add more background or adding in music in certain sections. Then they would go home and workshop and practice and come in with a whole new version.” 

Clark said she knows that no amount of practice can compare to what standing on a theater stage does for the performers. 

“It’s amazing what happens when you put someone on a stage and turn the lights on,” she said. “Everything gets amped up, everything gets more presentational. They’re amazing, it becomes so electric.” 

Graduate student Ashley Accius was a member of the first This is My Brave, reading a monologue about her struggles with mental health. The monologue dealt with emotional material, much of which Accius said she had never shared before. She said working with Clark’s empathy gave her the space to find confidence in her performance.

“When I went into the audition, I had a lot of anxiety. I was talking about things that happened to me for the first time in front of someone else,” she said. 

“When you’re processing everything for the first time, memories come up. Amanda would stay longer after rehearsals and I would speak about the past and how I was feeling. She guided me very well, and we really bonded in those moments.” 

This is My Brave has several months of rehearsals before it comes to USF on April 21. However, Clarke said she already knows what she hopes people take away from the show when the house lights go up.

“I hope people see someone on stage that they identify with, as a brother or sister or friend in struggle. That they either seek help, talk to their friends or feel less alone. I want people to feel less alone. That is everything.”